• Tuesday, April 16, 2024


Defendants of colour have higher charge rate than white suspects: Study

Representational image (iStock)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

BLACK and minority ethnic defendants were charged at higher rates than white counterparts for similar offences, a new study found, providing evidence of disproportionality in the outcomes of legal decision-making in England and Wales.

With 69.9 per cent of their cases resulting in a charge, white British suspects had the lowest charge rate, followed by defendants of Indian ethnicity who had a 71.8 per cent charge rate, the study commissioned by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) found.

While 73.5 per cent of suspects with Pakistani heritage faced charges, the proportion was a comparable 73.3 per cent for defendants of Bangladeshi ethnicity.

However, on the other end of the spectrum were mixed heritage suspects who had a charge rate ranging from 77.3 per cent to 81.3 per cent.

The research conducted by the University of Leeds for the CPC comes against the backdrop of the 2017 Lammy Review which noted that people of colour were vastly overrepresented in the prison population – making up 25 per cent of prisoners despite making up only 14 per cement of the overall population.

However, the reasons for the disproportionality have not been found.

Max Hill KC, the director of public prosecutions, described the findings as “troubling”.

“While we cannot yet identify what is driving these disparities, it is clear we must do further work to establish this as a matter of urgency. I am personally committed to ensuring we take whatever action is needed to reduce disproportionality in our Service,” Hill said.

Noted barrister Leslie Thomas KC said the findings only showed the police, prosecutors and judges “are failing in their roles and do not appear to be upholding the rule of law if you are a person of colour.”

“There is disproportionality in the treatment of black and brown people at every stage of the justice system from stop and searches, arrests, who get bail, who doesn’t, sentencing and treatment in prisons. The question rather is what can be done and done now to address it,” he told the Guardian.

“The good news is the CPS are aware that there is a problem. That is a step in the right direction because you cannot solve a problem if you are blind to it or in denial,” he said.

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